KARACHI, Jan 14: Ten of the 54 falcons caught by the Coast Guards near Jiwani late on Thursday were set free near Gwadar, some 600 kilometres from here, on Friday evening, a Balochistan wildlife official told Dawn, adding that one falcon had died.

Gwadar wildlife chief Maqbool-ul-Hassan said that the Coast Guards intercepted a pick-up carrying 54 falcons — of peregrine, saker and other species — and seized the birds from the vehicle’s occupants, Shabbir and Sharafat, who were arrested.

Gwadar Coast Guards chief Col Amir Cheema handed over the seized consignment and the suspects to the wildlife staffers. The suspects stated that they intended to deliver the falcons, owned by a Karachi-based wildlife trader, Deedar, to some contacts after reaching Jiwani. The consignment was to be sent to Iran in a boat for further shipment to some Arab country.

Col Cheema said the falcons were packed in boxes and their wings had been stuck together with some glue-like material. After going through the difficult task of unsticking their wings, 10 of the falcons were set free in the presence of NGO representatives, media people and Gwadar Deputy Commissioner Hashim Gilzai, he said.

He said that the remaining 43 falcons would be released on Saturday morning.

Peregrine and Saker falcons are migratory bird species in high demand as foreign hunters use these birds in hunting the internationally protected houbara bustard. Falcon is protected under the wildlife conservation laws that prohibit trapping, netting and trading of the bird species.